My Book, Raising a Heart Child: A Parent’s Guide to Congenital Heart Defects

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….has been published! When Corey was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at 20-weeks gestation, I yearned for a book like this one. I wanted to know what his journey would be like, in as much detail as possible, from the moment of diagnosis through every test, every treatment, every appointment with with doctors/dentists/therapists. I wrote this book for everyone who has been touched by a child with CHD. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends – all of us. May it offer help, hope, information, and comfort to those who need it.

Here are the links to all the distributors carrying my book. Click on any of them to see the book or read free samples:

Amazon, AmazonUK, Barnes & Noble, Apple iTunes, Oyster, Kobo, Blio, FlipKart, Smashwords

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Vegas Baby!

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Last week we went to Las Vegas to visit my in-laws. And may I just say, what a great place for my in-laws to live! I mean really – you can’t pick where your family lives, but if you could, I think I’d go with minutes off of the Vegas strip. The whole week was a blast thanks to not only the location but also the fabulous hosting abilities of my husband’s father and his wife. Many thanks to them!

The trip began with a 5-hour flight with Team Crazy. Enough said about that. We spent a leisurely Saturday afternoon once we arrived, and then we kicked it up a notch with crab picking on Sunday. Crab picking in the desert – I’m still not over the thrill of that. And the crabs were fantastic. But they’d have to be, right? Because the crabs you get are the ones hardy enough to survive the flight. Add some Fat Tire, and now you’re cooking with gas. I love crab picking – it’s such a fun social event. Corey is all in, too – he calmly and expertly picked 3 extra-large crabs all by himself.

Monday was a day at the water park. Wet ‘N Wild. The ladies begged off of that event – can’t imagine why when there are giant water slides which mimic such fun pastimes as being flushed down a giant toilet – and went shopping. Ah, shopping. The ladies came home with full shopping bags. The boys came home bronze-skinned, blonde-haired, and totally zonked out from their day in the water and sun. They were still zombies the next morning – score!

We hit the Mac King Comedy/Magic Show with the kids on Tuesday afternoon, and it was a riot! Damian found a super deal on the net, and we scored tickets (normally $40 each plus a 1 drink minimum) for $15 apiece, including a drink voucher. Sweet! My father-in-law spotted the usher a $10, and we got seats in the front row. Out of all of us, Corey really wanted to go on stage. Damian really did not. Guess who went up? That’s right! My husband. Still, he was a good sport and played along. Mac King did some funny card tricks with him, stole his watch, and offered him a Budweiser bottle (which he later signed) – it was all good fun. The boys certainly loved seeing their daddy up on the stage.

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Above is a shot of us on our way to Jersey Boys later that night, which I loved. We were NOT the demographic. In case you’re not familiar with the play, it’s all about Frankie Valli when he was coming up – his time with The Four Seasons, his history with his family, etc. I learned a lot, recognized all the songs, but what I was most blown away by was the sheer vocal capability of the kid who play Frankie. He literally had a guitar, a bass, a keyboard, a drum set, and a horn section consisting of SIX guys behind him, and he was blowing them all away. Amazing.

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This is a shot of the Bellagio atrium at night. I am always amazed by the beauty and creativity of the floral arrangements and sculptures. We wandered about in there for a bit after Jersey Boys, then we stopped in Sensei for a lobster sushi roll and a glass of malbec. And people watching. Always a treat to people watch in Vegas. For me, anywhere really. I’m like that.

The next night was our night of freedom. Woot woot! Every year the grandparents graciously offer to watch the boys for 24 hours, and Damian and I take full advantage of this opportunity. This year we stayed in the Venetian. I’d never stayed there before, and it’s around the location we like best on the strip, so I was excited. Damian used a trick he’d learned on the net (perfectly legal, of course) to score us some upgrades, including a pool/strip view on a higher floor, as well as no extra resort/early check-in fees. A round of applause for my brilliant husband. This is the view from our room.

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That night we went to dinner at Nobu, the famous Japanese place on the strip in the Hard Rock Hotel. It was FABULOUS. WARNING: I am about to describe this meal in enough detail to put you into a food coma right in front of your computer. If that’s not your thing, skip ahead to the next paragraph. So, we did the chef’s tasting menu with a bottle of pinot noir, and everything I ate was like nothing I’d ever had before. We started with a seaweed wrap that was shaped like a cone and filled with sprouts, carrots, avocado, and a heavenly ginger/peanut sauce. Next was a sashimi paste in the shape of a disc served with wasabi/scallions/caviar over a bed of banana leaves with a Japanese pear as a palate cleanser. After that, a plate of sashimi in a long thin dish, from left to right a piece of ahi tuna, a piece of mackerel, a piece of fish that I can’t remember (but it was wildly presented with the skin on), and then a mini sponge cake as a palate cleanser. Onward to 3 pieces of sashimi served sideways as the outside of a tower, in the center was a salad with a creamy cilantro sauce – also amazing. Next it was 3 pieces of yellowtail served in a bright lemon sauce with ginger and scallions (maybe my favorite cold dish). On to the hot dishes – first there was a hot piece of buttery melt-in-your-mouth sea bass with a bbq/teriaki sauce – heavenly good. Then a plate of super-thin rare kobi beef served sizzling on a plate of diced peppers & onions. I was ready to wave my white flag, but then out came a bowl of miso soup with a giant scallop in it. And finally – finally! – dessert – which was a chocolate lava cake topped with white chocolate and served in a wooden box with green-tea iced cream next to it. Fantastic fantastic fantastic!

The next morning brought our annual breakfast visit to Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Hotel. We sat right on the strip, where the people-watching before 10 AM is killer, and we enjoyed wonderful french food and strong coffee. Damian had waffles and strawberries, and I had a ratatouille omelet with fruit, fresh toast and home-made jam. As we watched the people stroll by on the strip, at first we thought we weren’t going to see anything interesting. The weather was mild, and a lot of joggers were out and about. What’s up with these health nuts on the strip? I mean, really. Lots of tourists with coffee cups passed by and people-watched US as we ate! What’s up with that?

But then our luck started to change. We saw a dude double fisting two open bottles of Budweiser, some guys who’d clearly been up all night and were strolling by with beer cans, a guy smoking a doobie, and finally a bride and groom. Yes! My quota was filled. As was my coffee cup. Fun.

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The other highlight of the trip, outside of all the fantastic food and wine we ate and drank with my in-laws, was the giant Ferris Wheel – the High Roller. This thing is a beast, offering non-stop motion and killer views of the city. Here are my guys enjoying the heights together. Oh! And I nearly forgot the Pinball Museum! Heaven for Corey with row upon row of pinball machines from all different eras, all supporting the Salvation Army.

Overall, it was a wonderful experience as always. Except for Sharknado 2. I survived it, but I don’t recommend it. I recommend all the rest of it, though! Can’t wait for next year.

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My CHD book has been published!

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I wrote a book titled Raising a Heart Child: A Parent’s Guide to Congenital Heart Defects. It is based on Corey’s journey through the world of CHD. It is available in ebook format on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple, FlipKart, and Smashwords, and it will soon be sold on Oyster, Kobo, Blio, and PageFoundry. Here is the introduction:

“There’s something wrong with your baby’s heart.” Those seven simple words changed our lives forever.

We began our journey in the world of congenital heart defects (CHD) when I was twenty weeks pregnant with our first son, Corey. During the standard twenty-week ultrasound, the technician found that one side of our son’s heart was abnormally large.

And so it began. A series of high level ultrasounds, test after test, consultation after consultation with specialist after specialist, all through an endless stream of tears and fear and sadness. A perinatologist who gave us no hope. A pediatric cardiologist, and then another and another, who gave us the ray of light that we needed to hang on.

In medical terms, tricuspid atresia. A single ventricle heart defect, a hypoplastic right heart syndrome. In human terms, a life lived with half a heart. But a life worth living, in every way, if we could accept the challenge and fight for our baby. And so we did.

Corey had his first surgery before he was a month old – the Blalock-Taussig Shunt. The second surgery came at less than six months of age – the Glenn. And finally, the three-stage reconstruction was completed with the Fontan when he was just four years old.

Today Corey has completed third grade. He’s the teacher’s pet. He’s an A student. He plays baseball. Everyone loves this beautiful child who fought his way into the world and then fought his way into all of our hearts.

I don’t know what the future will bring. Tomorrow is a promise to no one. But I do know that every single moment I have had with this amazing little person has been a gift. The present is bright, and I have every reason to hope that the future will be too.

I am not a doctor, and this story is not meant to offer medical advice. Only medical professionals can provide medical advice. But I have lived this story, and these pages offer a firsthand glimpse into the life of a child with CHD, including everything that I have learned along the way. This is the book I wanted when we discovered Corey’s defect. It is a road map of our journey through the world of CHD.

This is Corey’s story. Through it perhaps you can find hope for the child in your life who battles congenital heart defects too. And maybe some small comfort in knowing that you are not alone.

Let’s Go to the Emergency Room!

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A few days ago, the boys (AKA, Team Crazy) decided that we don’t have enough insanity in our lives, and really we needed to make a trip to the emergency room. You see, the boys think “ER” stands for “Excitement Room.”

But let me back up a moment and explain. On Friday morning the weather was nice – a bit overcast and cool for an early August day in Maryland. A good day for an outdoor activity with Team Crazy. Anytime I can get them outside and run them, I do it. We opted to go to Down’s Park, which skirts the Magothy River and the Chesapeake Bay. Sounds lovely, right? And it is. As long as you stay out of the water.

My mother and I packed up the boys and drove off to the park. We arrived, parked near the playground, and the boys played on the equipment for a bit. Corey announced that he wanted to hike down to the beach area, and I, thinking nothing of it, readily agreed. The boys spent about 20-30 minutes playing along the water’s edge, building sandcastles, checking out seashells and bits of rock, and just generally wading about in the water. It was nice.

Until the park ranger approached us and said this, “I don’t mean to scare you, but we’ve had 16 cases of flesh-eating bacteria recently. Nobody should be in the water. If you’ve been in the water and you have open cuts, they’re advising you to go to the hospital.” Guess who had cuts all over his legs from scratching open mosquito bites? Both members of Team Crazy. Panic anyone? Flesh-eating bacteria?! Where were the warning signs?! I’ll tell you where: nowhere at that park or anywhere else I’ve been close to the water. Visions of the news stories showing people losing their limbs to this bacteria flashed through my mind.

So as I started to freak out and calculate my next move without terrifying the boys, the ranger proceeded to tell me that they have a hose attached to one of the nearby buildings, and that I should hose them off immediately. I practically broke into a run, leaving my mother and the boys behind in my fearful quest for that hose. When we all finally reached the hose, I had them strip down to their underwear (I briefly considered just having them streak naked back to the car, but I had no towels with me) and I hosed them down thoroughly. I then decided that, no matter what we did later, the first step was to wash them thoroughly with soap.

I drove home like Cruella Deville chasing down 99 puppies, and on the way I called their father. He suggested I call the pediatrician. I did. The nurse a the pediatrician’s office advised me to take them to the ER, noting that, should they be seen by the doctor, he would likely send us to the ER anyway, as they have more testing capability. We then called my mother-in-law for her opinion as a nurse (and scared the bejesus out of her – sorry, Conni), and she told us to go to the ER too.

Fine. We went home, showered the boys until their skin was nearly raw, covered all their cuts in Neosporin, threw fresh clothes on them (and me, as I was thoroughly soaked at that point), and went to the ER. At the ER, they looked at me like I was a crazy person. And that was without witnessing my bad driving! As in, “Here’s another lunatic parent overreacting.” I explained the situation, but the doctor informed me that there were no tests to order, as both boys were asymptomatic. She did say that we had done the right thing by showering them first (no showers in the ER), and she prescribed topical and oral antibiotics for 5 days as a precaution. This may have been partly because Corey has tricuspid atresia, however. Better safe than sorry with the heart child.

The boys took the entire ordeal in stride. Unlike their mother and grandmothers, they were never scared. They did ask some questions, but mostly they were interested in working the TV remote and making the hospital’s automatic chair go up and down, up and down, up and down. At one point I was getting ready to text our family members to give them an update, and I asked the boys if they had anything to say. They played dead on their favorite automatic chair while I snapped their picture, and they said, “Yeah. Tell them we’re gonna die, but that’s okay because we get to go up and down on this chair.”

Right. It’s all about the chair. See? Excitement room.

The morning after our ordeal the boys greeted me with impy grins and jokes like, “My leg fell off in the middle of the night!” Or, my personal favorite, “Feel my ear. I think it’s loose.” Nice. Any chance to taunt their mother. Luckily they are fine, though, and I am very relieved.

However, I’ve had enough of the excitement room to last a lifetime.

 

Corey – Honorary Bat Boy for the Oriole’s!

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Corey played another great season of baseball this year. He’s been playing since he was four years old. He loved it, and he’s good at it. For us, it’s another miracle; the child with half a heart can play a legitimate sport.

After one of his games this year he came home with a contest entry form. It was for the Chick-Fil-A Honorary Bat Kids Sweeptstakes. I barely looked at the form. How many sweepstakes have I entered in my life and won? Zero. Actually that’s not true – I won free lunch for the office once from a radio station maybe 15 years ago. Anyway, I just thought, “He’s never going to win.” But Corey was insistent, so I offered him a pen, an envelope and a stamp, and I told him that if he wanted to enter, he’d have to handle it himself. He did.

And he won. Corey was not surprised by the win. Me, I was shocked. I spoke to a Baltimore Oriole’s representative, and he gave me the contest details as well as the basics of the prize, which were as follows:

“This summer Chick-fil-A and the Baltimore Orioles have teamed up to present the Bat Kids Sweepstakes. Children ages 6-14 can enter to win the title Honorary Bat Kid at an Oriole’s game this summer.

Winners will be given:

  • Early on-field Access before general public admission
  • One-on-one interaction with players
  • Autographs
  • Pre-game Ceremony featured on the jumbotron with the Oriole Bird and Chick-fil-A Cow
  • Co-branded Orioles and Chick-fil-A t-shirt
  • Four game tickets
  • Chick-fil-A Prize Pack filled with coupons and free prizes
  • Congratulatory Certificate
  • Memorable photo of the on-field ceremony

Winners will also be able to watch Batting Practice from in front of the Orioles Dugout for one hour during Orioles Batting Practice.”

Wow! First we scheduled a game to attend, which was Thursday, June 12th against the Toronto Blue Jays at Camden Yards. We were given four free tickets, meaning our family was able to attend together. Next, I spoke with the Chick-Fil-A rep, and he asked us to come to the local store to pick up our prize, which was touted as “Free Chick-Fil-A for a year!” – it’s actually 52 chicken sandwiches. Still awesome, don’t get me wrong. We picked up the prize and had our picture taken with the cow. Photos of that are in the June 10th Chick-Fil-A facebook feed.

The night of the Camden Yards Oriole’s game arrived, and it was pouring down rain. Buckets. Cats and dogs. Pick a cliche. I was pretty sure the game was going to be rained out and Noah’s Ark was going to make an appearance. However, we were mostly concerned that Corey wouldn’t get to experience the pre-game activities. The game was scheduled to start at 7:05, but we were asked to arrive by 4:30 for Corey’s activities. At 4:30, we met the Oriole’s rep, Brian, at Home Plate Plaza, he handed Corey a t-shirt, hat, and professional ball and asked him to put on the shirt & hat. Corey changed quickly in the nearby restroom, and then he headed off with Brian.

Corey was supposed to watch batting practice, but the ball players weren’t batting. They were practicing their kayaking skills. However, Corey did get to spend time with the players in the dugout. Not too shabby. He got his ball signed by 7 current players. He was also given a tour of the locker room and the press box. Corey chatted the players up and returned to us grinning like a fool. He also got 3 signatures from former players who just happened to be at Camden Yards offering to sign fan paraphernalia.

Not long after, Corey was allowed on the field for a certificate ceremony with another little girl. We had to stay behind, but we were able to get close to the field to watch. During this ceremony, Corey and the other girl appeared on the jumbotron with the Chick-Fil-A cow and the Oriole’s mascot. Brian asked Corey to wave to his family. Corey interpreted “wave to your family” to mean “act like a maniac.” Corey was such a ham that the other people on the field laughed and clapped for him. That child is no shrinking violet.

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We grabbed some food for dinner and found our seats. Miraculously, the rain stopped, the tarps were rolled back, and the ball game started on time! We stayed for a few innings, and the boys loved it. It was late, though, and a school night, so we left before the game was even half over. As I tucked Corey into bed that night, he asked me to let him know, first thing in the morning, if the Oriole’s won. (They did.)

It’s a night he’ll remember for the rest of his life.

A Night in Zurich (Last Day)

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We spent our last night in Zurich, mostly because the hotel was close to the airport. We’d spent the day visiting Jungfraujoch, and we were completely exhausted. So when we discovered that the Alden Luxury Suite Hotel was spectacular, we decided to just stay in and order room service. Ah, room service. We had originally planned to explore Zurich and have dinner out, but we quickly nixed that idea.

The Alden is a boutique hotel with only 20 rooms, much like our Paris hotel. But unlike our Paris hotel, the room was ENORMOUS. It was an apartment, really. It sported a huge bedroom, a living room, a dining area, two bathrooms (who doesn’t need two bathrooms?), and a balcony. The master bath was as big as my kitchen. It was crazy. Why wouldn’t we want to stay and enjoy it?

During the course of our trip, everywhere we stayed Damian noted that we were celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary. Most people just nodded and offered some form of congratulations, but the Alden upgraded us to that palatial room and gave us a chilled bottle of champagne. Sweet! We changed into some giant fluffy robes and ordered room service. The food was nothing to rave about, but it was fast and easy. We paired it with the champagne and some Swiss chocolates. A nice end to a wild day.

The next morning, June 1st, we rose early, checked out, hopped in the car and headed for the airport. Thank goodness it was a Sunday morning and nobody was out, because navigating the streets of Zurich was not easy. Damian had to listen to me instead of the GPS, because she just wasn’t fast enough to keep up with him. Turn here, turn there, turn over there! Oops, we missed it. When we missed a turn and went the wrong way, we came upon a group of six police cars.

Six police cars. In Zurich. And we’re getting pulled over. Panic attack anyone?

We didn’t know what was going on. My first thought was that we had taken a restricted road toward a federal building, and we were either going to be instructed to turn around or taken to the hoosegow. (Hey Mom! We got arrested in Switzerland. Can you come bail us out? It’s only a 9-hour flight. No biggie.) But the officer just greeted us, asked us if we spoke English, inquired about our business on the road that morning, and wished us a safe flight home.

Phew! In hindsight, we think it must have been a sobriety check point. At 7:30 AM. I guess the Swiss like to party.

We made it to the airport, through customs (we were asked several questions by the Swiss customs staff before we could board the plane), and to our seats for the long flight home. They were offering a free glass of wine in a plastic cup with lunch – possibly in an effort to knock everybody out – and a couple of in-flight movies. I took advantage of all of that. We made our connection in Philadelphia and took our 17-minute hop back to BWI.

We got home at 7:30 PM, so the boys were still up, which was wonderful. I missed them terribly, and I couldn’t wait to hug and kiss them. Mason was wildly excited to see us – he pretty much hurled himself into my arms – and both boys talked simultaneously non-stop about all the fun times they’d shared with their grandparents. We enjoyed putting them to bed, and we crashed hard ourselves not long after.

Would we go back? It’s a big world, and there are so many places we still want to explore. But I fell in love with Provence and Interlaken, so if we could squeeze either of those places in on a future trip, then yes. Part of me wants to just chuck it all and get a job as a waitress at the Victoria Jungfrau Hotel.

Many thanks to my wonderful husband for all his hard work planning this trip. The memories will last forever.

Ziplining in Jungfraujoch – The Top of Europe! (Day 10)

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We woke at 6:30 AM to begin our greatest adventure yet. On Saturday, May 31st, we traveled to Jungfraujoch – the top of Europe – at 11,745 feet above sea level. Matt Lauer went for “The Today Show” years ago, and you can see the video here: Jungfraujoch Today Show Video. It’s a fantastic 8-minute glance into just what we experienced. Worth a look. Accessing Jungfraujoch required 3 steep, expensive mountain trains and 2.5 hours of travel to reach the peak.

At 6:30 AM one of the friendly staff at the Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel called our room and said, “Good morning, Mrs. Fleming.” I croaked back, “Good morning. Thank you,” and hung up the phone to begin the day. Damian was already up, and I knew he’d have ants in his pants to get started on our journey. I resisted the urge to throw a pillow over my head and go back to sleep, and instead I got up and dressed for breakfast.

Breakfast at the hotel was included with the price of the room, and the first seating was at 7:00 AM. Guess what time we got there? I’ll give you a hint: not 7:01 AM. We were the first hotel guests to arrive, and the staff seated us near the window in their atrium, which offered stunning views of the Swiss Alps. The breakfast was served buffet style, and it was the fanciest buffet I’d ever seen. (Those of you who enjoyed the Spices breakfast buffet at the Royal Hideaway may be surprised to hear that.)

We ordered drinks and then picked up our plates. Anything I could imagine was spread out before me. French toast with whipped cream and syrup, scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon, an enormous assortment of gourmet cheeses arranged on tiered plates, sliced meats, croissants and rolls with butter and 8 different flavors of jam (everything from cherry to orange marmalade), fruit tarts, fresh fruit (including strawberries, blackberries and pineapple), various muffins, coffee, different flavored juices, a full compliment of Japanese fair (miso soup, etc.), and a giant honeycomb with fresh honey dripping down over it. I could have sat there for hours enjoying all the delicious goodies and looking at the Alps.

After breakfast, we were able to purchase our mountain train tickets (at a discount, which was helpful, because they were pricey) from the hotel. The hotel offers no late check-out options, so we had to check out and leave our bags with the concierge. Our first train was set to leave shortly after 8:00 AM from the Interlaken Ost railway station, which was within walking distance of our hotel. Tickets in hand, we struck out for our first train ride. This is a map of the route we took (note that we went up one side of the mountain – the green path – and came down another – the yellow path).

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The first leg was a relatively short 25-minute ride up to Lauterbrunnen. While the views were enjoyable, we were still close to the base of the Alps at this stage. In Lauterbrunnen we changed trains and took another mountain train up to Kleine Scheidegg. This train was pretty steep, and it offered some incredible views of the surrounding mountains and Swiss towns. We switched trains once again at the station in Kleine Scheidegg for the final leg of the journey – the train to Jungfraujoch.

The final train chugged slowly up the mountainside, bringing us through dark tunnels to the peak. There were 5-minute stops along the route, allowing riders to exit the train and snap pictures memorializing the journey to the top. At around 10:30 AM, we reached the station at Jungfraujoch and got off the train to begin our tour.

There was a lot more to do and see than I expected. Restaurants, bars, shops, even an ice palace in addition to the unreal views. We came for the views, and we only expected to be up there for an hour, maybe 90 minutes. We stayed for 3 hours. 

We began our tour at the Spinx – this was the absolute highest point. From there, we had views of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. Since it was a sunny day, we were able to see through the cotton-like cloud cover all the way down to the ground far, far below. People liken the views from the Spinx to the views from Mount Everest. Minus the swag of saying, “I climbed Mount Everest!” I’ll never know if that’s really true, but I must say, standing above the clouds outside of an airplane in the thin air was absolutely majestic. The surrounding snow-capped mountains only added to the magic of the place. This is a shot from the Spinx, and, if you look closely, you can see the ground through the veils of cloud

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We continued our tour of the area by visiting the ice palace. Everything was made of ice. The sculptures, the walls, the ceilings, even the floor – all ice. There was a sign depicting a man slipping and falling as we entered the first cave. When you’ve got international guests all speaking different languages, best to go with funny pictures. We did not fall.

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The next area was called “snow fun.” Here we found an outdoor area nestled high in the mountain tops which featured hiking, skiing, sledding, and ziplining. Guess which one we picked? For 20 Swiss francs, we chose the ziplining! I’d never done it before, and I thought, “If I don’t do this, I am going to regret it for the rest of my days.” So we did it. We each had to put on a harness and climb a seriously rickety ladder up to a platform where we were given a lesson on detaching from the line at the bottom.

I went first. Mostly so I wouldn’t chicken out. I attached my line, sat down, and I was off! Seeing the white mountains fly past my face, feeling the wind – oh, what an adrenaline rush! And then I wiped out at the bottom and got snow in my pants. Everybody does, though. You just land in the snow, detach yourself from the line, and stumble out of the way of the next crazy zipliner. It was great – we both loved it. Here we are, in our gear, after ziplining.

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After that adventure, I needed some refreshment. So we bought some hot coffee from a little bar and sat down to watch the other adventurous people, enjoying the sunshine on the snow. We walked to the plateau afterward, which is a wide flat area (hence the name) that features a web cam. We stood and waved at that webcam like idiots, hoping to get a shot of ourselves up there preserved for all time. In true, “We made it! Check us out!” fashion. There are two stills of us from the webcam, captured by my father-in-law, who got up at 1:30 AM in Las Vegas (there’s a 9-hour time difference between Las Vegas and Jungfraujoch) to find us up there. We are so thankful to him for going above and beyond.

Lunch! There are restaurants in Jungfraujoch, but, as you might imagine, they are pricey. The only way to get supplies up there is via train. But what the hell, right? You’re only there once. We sat down at a table that afforded more great views of the mountains around us and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Personally, I don’t mind paying more if the food is good and the atmosphere is nice. Damian had a lobster bisque and salad, and I had a creamy leek soup with ravioli and shitake mushrooms paired with a salad. The bread basket, which was 3.50 Swiss francs per person, offered pretzel-twisted rolls and butter. It was all fantastic.

Next stop: shopping! I have never seen my husband express so much glee over shopping in my life. He bought all sorts of nick-knacks, including a cow with a bell. Maybe it was the altitude. I bought a gorgeous smoky quartz necklace and matching earrings. That was the first trinket I’d bought for myself on the trip, so I didn’t feel guilty about dropping a wad.

Finally, after 3 hours up in the thin air, we hopped a train and made our way down the other side of the mountain, through Grindelwald. We picked up our bags at the hotel and, just when we felt like resting and enjoying the hotel, we hopped in the car and drove 90 minutes to Zurich. That drive featured the longest tunnel yet – 5,200 meters! Damian said, “Whoa. That’s a 5 K!” Yep.

We eventually made it to our hotel, totally wiped out from our adventures. But I’ll talk about that, and our trip home, another day….